Today, and in the week or so leading up to today, I got a new insight on birthdays. As I've been thinking about Gulliver and his big day (1!), I realized I have a whole new perspective now on a birthday! Up until now, I've typically celebrated my own birthday, or the birthday of my husband, family members, friends, etc. But you know, I have never actually been around for anyone's actual birth moment. Gulliver on the other hand. I was an active participant in bringing him into this world. And all of a sudden, I get the whole concept of celebrating this person's existence, because he hasn't been around our whole lives. I remember when he joined us, and life has been even better ever since, so today is a day that we celebrate him and his being a part of our lives.
It's hard to imagine life without Gulliver. It's hard to imagine him not being a part of us. We're a great little perfect unit. (And we'll just become more and more perfect as we add more, until all our hearts explode because we can't handle all the love anymore.) This year, he has made our transition into parenthood very easy. His sweet little personality and spirit brighten our home and bring us indescribable joy.
I've never been a birthday party person before, but my mothering instinct kicked in big time and I knew that I just had to properly celebrate my baby's birthday. Even though he won't remember it. I wanted to share it with as much family and friends as our home could hold. (So please don't be offended if you weren't invited; we really kept the list to immediate family and a few friends who have been involved with Gulliver.)
There were some who unfortunately couldn't attend. Ootise and Outsie (my parents) called in the morning and my mom sang Gulliver Happy Birthday for the first time in his life. My dad sang him "Happy Birthday Mhaa You" for the first time in either of their lives, or anyone's life for that matter. (Mhaa is the sound that Gulliver and my dad like to exchange.) Gulliver also got a special voice mail from his Uncle J that I wish I could save forever. He sang an Elvis birthday song to Gulliver and it's worth listening to over and over.
The party was a lot of fun and worked out decently well. There were no major meltdowns by anyone in attendance. So here's kindof how it went:
We brought out pretty much every single chair in our home.
We made a poster of Gulliver's head and taped it to the empty canvas we've had as a placeholder on our gallery wall. (Find it in the pics below.)
Murray made a slideshow of a lot of our Gulliver pictures from birth until now, and a coordinating playlist of Gulliver-appropriate songs (including Do Do Do Da Da Da by the Police, and Bohemian Rhapsody by the Muppets, among other classics, like Octopus's Garden, which is Gulliver's song). This played on our tv during the evening.
We bought balloons. I had wanted the whole room full of balloons, but we decided our car could probably only hold 6. When we bought the balloons, we realized that the Honda Civic could have easily held at least 20. What can I say? We're young parents and have a lot to learn.
I made two cakes. One was a coconut sheet cake, available all night, and the other was Gulliver's special Octopus Cake (made with a Williams-Sonoma cake pan that has been waiting for a moment like this for over a year now). I had planned on decorating this cake ahead of time, but ran out of time and powdered sugar.
I made a [GULLIVER] banner to go above the food table. Because banners are very hot right now. And because [GULLIVER] has fewer letters than HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
I wrapped Gulliver's presents. One I wrapped with him right there. I know. I'm a terrible mother. It was a ball. And he played with the wrapping paper while I wrapped it. And then when he was napping, I wrapped his other gifts. (Clothes and a box... more details later.) (FORESHADOWING: The box gift elicited the best reaction ever.)
Murray set things up and tidied up.
Murray (a few days before) painted a 1 painting after the Beatles album. Murray is awesome. (Look for this in the pics below.)
The guests arrive:
I knew that a baby's 1st birthday would end very badly if planned too late. So we decided to hold our party "open house" style, where people could come and go any time between 5 and 8. (Hence the sheet cake, available all evening.) This was also more accommodating to the elderly and to the youngerly attending the party, since they could come early. Although the pep and vigor of the youngerly might not have been the best mix with the elderly :) At least Murray's grandparents didn't get any bean bags thrown at their heads. (Just a few near misses.)
Thanks to the help of friends and family, we were able to serve mini quiches (don't be too impressed---I bought them frozen from Costco), bread + dip, veggies, fruit + dip, cheese ball (a special request from Murray) + crackers, beverages, and sheet cake.
We opened gifts in two rounds, so that the early crowd and the late crowd could participate in a bit of gift opening. In both crowds, there were many eager kids to help Gulliver open presents, which worked out well since Gulliver obviously doesn't fully get it yet. (He might not need help next year, and I pity the fool who tries to help him two years from now.) Gulliver got some awesome things. It was fun to see his eyes light up opening the gifts, and I'm excited to bring these all out again in a normal, calmer setting, where he can invest some quality time playing with them!
Cici and Steve saved the day and the special Octopus Cake by bringing new powdered sugar. This was my first formal attempt at cake decoration and I am pretty darn proud of myself. Many thanks to my wing-women, P and Ali.
We finished decorating it, we snapped some pictures, lit the candle, and then destroyed it, all within 3 minutes. I was winging a lot of this (since I'm not an experienced party planner) and actually didn't know exactly what to do when we presented Gulliver with his one-candled cake. But luckily his cousin Bean (3.5 yrs old) was there to help us out and he blew out the candle for Gulliver. Problem solved!!
Gulliver got his cake, and did not destroy it in a typical 1-year-old fashion. I suspect that this might have to do with the fact that it was almost 8 and technically past his bedtime. But he enjoyed being fed his cake in a calm manner.
At this point, there was still a remaining batch of presents, and again I wasn't quite sure what to do, because it seemed to me that Gulliver was winding down. I was wondering if I should just leave the presents till tomorrow during the day, when he could more fully appreciate them, but I had left his big present until this time, and I really wanted to have him open that on his birthday, even if he was a little too tired to appreciate it. Thankfully, kids stepped up to the plate again to enthusiastically help Gulliver unwrap his presents. He somewhat happily acknowledged the gifts that he received.
And then came the big box present, which the other kids were also most excited about seeing (since it was the biggest). I had wrapped this so that it was very easy to unwrap, so that Gulliver would have no problem unwrapping it. But I was beyond expecting him to be capable of unwrapping it at this point, so as it played out, while Gulliver watched, Bean and C whisked away the packaging quickly to unveil the Zany Zoo! (To give you an idea of size, the top of this is about waist height when Gulliver is standing up.)
And Gulliver GASPED the funniest and most adorable baby gasp ever and his whole face lit up and he reached for it and started playing with it immediately.
BEST. BABY. REACTION. EVER.
(To a mother, a reaction like this probably releases the same amount of dopamine into your system as the best drugs on the market.)
In fact, at this point, Gulliver got a second wind and played with his Zany Zoo for the next 30 minutes at least. And quite determinedly shoved away any other kid who tried to play with it too closely. (It's big enough that other kids could play on the other side and be outside of shoving range.)
If I ever need a "happy place" in my life, it will forever be in the precious moment of his baby gasp.
Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us! We're so happy to have Gulliver in our lives and so happy to have you to celebrate with! (And thank you to YOU blog reader(s) who made it to the end of this post!! Leave a comment if you made it this far because then we'll really know who loves Gulliver the most.)
(And it took me less than an hour to write this post, which means less time than I spent pushing... but to be honest that part of labor only seemed like five minutes at the time. To be fair, I now need to check on Murray for pictures, so uploading pictures will take a little extra time.)
(Ed. note: Downloading, prepping, and uploading pictures is like the not so fun afterbirth part of the whole birth process. By this time last year, Gulliver had had his first bath and they were maybe wheeling me into my hospital room.)